Cyprus: The Predictable Crisis

Cyprus: The Predictable Crisis

Mini Teaser: The EU's determination to invite Cyprus into the Union in December 2002 represents a crisis-in-the-making. It's not too soon for Washington to begin work to head it off.

by Author(s): Henri J. BarkeyPhilip H. Gordon

Most international crises take leaders by surprise. While the region or issue that might blow up can often be identified in advance, the timing and contour of any particular crisis usually cannot. The coming dispute between Turkey and the European Union over the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, however, provides the rare opportunity of a coming crisis that can be pretty well scripted in advance. Barring significant new developments, none of which will come about without major outside intervention, the accession of the Greek part of Cyprus in 2004 to the European Union will trigger a severe crisis between Turkey and the West. The crisis is set to begin, however, at the end of 2002, when the EU plans to issue invitations to prospective candidates. Unless something is done to alter the current course of events, the entry of a divided Cyprus into the EU will reverse much of the cooperation that has developed recently between Greece and Turkey, increase tensions on the island, further alienate Turkey from Europe and generally worsen Turkish domestic political conditions. The resulting crisis could lead to Turkish annexation of Northern Cyprus, the permanent division of the island, a deep rupture between an aggrieved Turkey and Europe, and a possible military confrontation between two NATO members.

Avoiding this all-too-likely scenario should be a high priority for U.S. and European policymakers, even as they rightly focus the bulk of their attention, political capital and foreign policy resources on coping with the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Indeed, whereas the natural tendency in the face of such an overwhelming new priority would be to push the seemingly eternal "Cyprus problem" to the back burner, the issue is both more pressing and more important than ever before. It is more pressing because of a timetable that has the EU set to announce Cyprus' accession sometime next year, even if Turkey's objections remain. And it is more important because a clash with Turkey over Cyprus, at a time when the United States is trying to sustain a global coalition against terrorism and fight wars in the Middle East, would deeply damage American national interests. Knowing this, of course, Turkey will be all the more likely to dig in its heels over Cyprus and expect Europe to back down.

The United States has an important role to play in defusing the Cyprus time bomb before it explodes. Whereas the EU naturally holds most of the highest cards (namely the accession timetable and economic incentives), the United States-as Turkey's most important strategic ally and an important partner of Cyprus, Greece and the rest of the EU-has significant leverage on all the parties involved. Leaders in Washington should avoid the temptation to dismiss Cyprus as an unnecessary irritant as they deal with more important issues, and instead use the long lead time before the coming crisis to take action. This means not only pushing hard to achieve a political settlement on Cyprus before accession (the optimal, if improbable, scenario), but also starting to prepare for the more likely scenario in which such a settlement is not reached and the EU enlarges to accept Cyprus without one. Only by pulling a range of strings with Turkey, Greece, Cyprus and the EU partners can this latter scenario be managed without producing the crisis that would otherwise inevitably result.

The Divided Island

The division of Cyprus has been one of the most intractable problems in international relations for decades, frozen almost in place for over a quarter century. The current disputes date back to the early 1960s, when the delicate balance constructed between the Greek and Turkish communities at the time of independence from Britain collapsed, primarily as a result of attempts by Greek Cypriots to undermine the Turkish Cypriots' constitutional protections.

The constitutional system broke down after inter-ethnic clashes in 1963, after which Turkish Cypriots no longer participated in the government. Between 1963 and 1974, the minority Turkish Cypriot community was frequently harassed by the majority Greeks, and acts of communal violence escalated. Conditions changed radically when, in 1974, the ruling military junta in Athens, in part to compensate for its growing unpopularity at home, instigated a coup in Cyprus. The coup resulted in the overthrow of the elected president, Archbishop Makarios, and his replacement by a member of the main anti-Turkish terrorist movement, Nikos Sampson. Turkey, as a guarantor power, responded by invading the island on July 20, 1974. Unsatisfied with the military gains achieved by the time a ceasefire was implemented, Turkish troops went on the offensive again in August, resulting in the current territorial division of the island. Backed by the Turkish military, the Turkish Cypriots, representing 18 percent of the population, ended up with around 37 percent of the island.

Since then, all efforts to broker a solution to the conflict have failed. While the Greek Cypriots continued to enjoy legal recognition as the Republic of Cyprus, the Turkish Cypriot administration in 1983 declared its independence and formed the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, an entity recognized only by Turkey, and supported both by Turkish financial aid and some 30,000 Turkish troops. Over the years, numerous attempts have been made to bring the two sides together, and countless rounds of talks have been held under UN auspices with active U.S. participation. All have proven fruitless. The general contours of a possible deal on a new Cypriot federation have been known for years: the Turkish side would cede territory to more closely reflect its share of the island's population; the Greek side would recognize Turkish administration over its zone; citizens on both sides who lost property would receive compensation or the right to return home; and a new, decentralized government would be formed. But none of the plans has been able to overcome seemingly insuperable obstacles: the inherent difficulties of building a joint government for two antipathetic communities; the Greek Cypriots' unwillingness to countenance a formally separate Turkish Cypriot area within Cyprus; and the Turkish Cypriot-and Turkish-preference for the post-1974 status quo.

While those who experienced personal or property losses in 1974 suffered greatly in subsequent years, Cyprus has actually been relatively stable since its division. During the 1980s and early 1990s it was a major issue only for those with a direct interest in it, including the powerful Greek-American domestic lobby and its supporters in Congress. The Cyprus problem rose to new prominence in 1995, however, when the European Union put Cyprus at the top of its list of candidates for future EU membership. The agreement to do so was reached under strong pressure from Greece, frustrated by the lack of progress toward a settlement, and as a quid pro quo for Athens agreeing to an EU customs union with Turkey. EU leaders were also convinced that the prospect of membership in the Union-massive economic benefits for both Cypriot communities and the freedom for Cypriots to work and travel throughout the Union-would catalyze the resolution of the inter-communal divisions on the island.

They were wrong. The EU's playing of the Cyprus card only stiffened Turkish resolve against a compromise. The EU's decision at the December 1997 Luxembourg Summit not to offer Turkey a path to EU accession further strained Turkish-European relations and made Ankara even less likely to encourage the Turkish Cypriots to cooperate. Two years later, with a Greek government now focused on deepening its integration with Europe and winning entry into the euro zone (and after strong pressure from the United States), the EU reversed course. At the 1999 Helsinki summit Turkey was made a formal candidate and declared to be "destined to join the Union." The price, however, was a renewed commitment to the resolution of the Cyprus problem. While noting that "all relevant factors" would be taken into account when the time came to decide on Cyprus' accession (widely taken to mean that the Greek Cypriots had to show good faith efforts to negotiate a political settlement), the EU stated clearly for the first time that the end of the island's division was not a precondition to membership. Thus was lit the fuse leading to a political settlement on the island-or to a crisis with Turkey.

Toward Europe

Despite the enduring deadlock over Cyprus, Turkey's relationship with the European Union-including with its historical rival Greece-has improved significantly since the Luxembourg Summit debacle. Whereas the mid- to late-1990s were plagued by a series of dangerous clashes and crises-concerning ownership of the Imia/Kardak islets in the Aegean (1996), the Luxembourg Summit (1997), Turkey's threat to respond militarily to Cyprus' proposed purchase of a Russian S-300 air defense system (1998), and Greece's support for Kurdish Workers' Party leader Abdullah …calan (1998-99)-the period since 1999 has been marked by an encouraging rapprochement both between Turkey and the EU and between Turkey and Greece. The Istanbul and Athens earthquakes of August and September 1999 further brought the two countries closer, as the populace in each country mobilized to provide assistance to the other, ushering in a period of what some observers called "seismic diplomacy." Under the new, pro-European moderate government of Costas Simitis, Greece adopted a new strategy of cooperation with Turkey. This new approach, driven primarily by Foreign Minister George Papandreou, has led to a long list of concrete agreements-in the areas of economic cooperation and trade, tourism, the environment and people-to-people exchanges-that demonstrate the potential to transform relations among these historical rivals and move Turkey closer to its aspiration of acceptance in Europe.

All of this progress, however, could be halted-and perhaps reversed-by Cyprus' accession to the EU in the absence of a prior political settlement. Turkey has remained deeply hostile to the accession of a divided island, and senior Turkish officials have threatened to do "whatever is necessary"-perhaps including the annexation of Northern Cyprus and further militarization of the island-to protect Turkish interests. Greece, however, has not backed down, and continues both to defend the principle that Cyprus must remain a single international entity (i.e., no recognition for the Northern Cyprus regime) and that Cyprus must be allowed to join the EU regardless of whether the island's division is overcome. Indeed, Greek leaders and members of parliament have made it clear that Greece would block the accession of any other prospective EU members (such as Poland, Hungary or the Czech Republic) unless Cyprus is allowed to join at the same time. Thus the potential for crisis, as the seemingly unstoppable progress of Cyprus' EU accession runs into the equally determined Turkish and Turkish Cypriot unwillingness either to accept a deal on the island or to acquiesce in Cypriot accession. Recent improvements in Greek-Turkish and Turkish-EU relations would be unlikely to survive such a development, with all the attendant implications this would have for peace and security in the region, domestic political stability in Turkey, regional military spending, and economic, energy, and defense relations among Turkey, the EU, and the United States.

Suffice it to say, then, that mistakes have been made. The idea of inviting Cyprus to join the EU has not led to a political settlement as was anticipated; there is little evidence that the parties are any closer to an agreement now than they have been for the past 27 years. Even if a majority of Turkish Cypriots want a deal-which may be the case-their leaders (and more importantly, leaders in Turkey itself) are unprepared to accept one on the terms being offered, and those terms do not seem likely to change substantially. On the other hand, Turkish assumptions regarding Cyprus and EU accession-that in the end, the EU would never actually accept a divided island-also seem to have been proven flawed. Until recently, most objective observers would have predicted that a divided island would not be allowed to join the EU, but now the reverse seems more likely.

This change in Cyprus' EU prospects has come about for four main reasons. The first is, as noted above, that in exchange for the extension of candidacy status to Turkey at the 1999 Helsinki summit, the Greek side won the EU's agreement that Cyprus' reunification is not a prerequisite for EU accession. The second factor has been Cyprus' rapid progress in fulfilling the various chapters of the acquis communautaire, the body of EU legislation with which all candidates must comply before they are allowed to join. At last report, Cyprus was at the top of the list of candidates in this regard, having fulfilled 23 out of 31 chapters, thus well on the way to removing any technical obstacle to its accession. To the extent that the Turks were hoping that Cyprus' accession would be derailed by its failure to comply with EU rules, they have been disappointed.

Third, at its December 2000 Nice summit, the EU undertook the institutional changes necessary to allow for rapid enlargement of the Union, such as limiting the size of the European Commission, using more qualified majority voting, and re-weighting majority votes in the European Council. (It is true that Ireland's June 2001 rejection of the Nice Treaty in a referendum is a setback for institutional revision, but most observers believe that the Irish will find a way to ratify by 2002, allowing the institutional changes to proceed and thus pave the way for enlargement.)

Finally, there is the widespread perception in Europe (and elsewhere) that the Greek Cypriot side has been more willing to pursue a political settlement than the Turkish side, and that the Greek Cypriots should not be punished for Turkish intransigence. In exchange for the December 1999 Helsinki statement on Turkish candidacy, the United States and the EU received assurances that the Turkish Cypriots would re-engage in the UN-sponsored process. Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, however, has twice walked away from that process. His decision to abandon the proximity talks in November 2000 re-inforced the perception that his participation had never really been sincere, that he only sought to appear reasonable in the run-up to the Helsinki decision. The following year, arduous efforts by the United States and others led to an understanding between Washington and Ankara that the talks would resume. They did not. On the eve of their scheduled resumption in September 2001, Denktash again backed out, with Turkey's full support-leading to a denunciation of the Turkish Cypriot position by the UN Security Council and key EU member states. Denktash's behavior has thus strengthened the Greek Cypriots' hand, relieved them from having to negotiate, and made it difficult for the EU to do anything but include Cyprus in its ranks.

The Costs of a Clash

In theory, at least, all parties to the Cyprus dispute have an incentive to reach a deal, and a "last-minute" settlement of the problem is not entirely impossible. On the Turkish Cypriot side, dire economic conditions-brought about by a Greek Cypriot-led embargo on its exports and homegrown mismanagement and corruption-have assumed almost disastrous proportions. The exodus of many of the most talented Turkish Cypriots has accelerated, as migrants from Anatolia, with few ties to the local culture and no natural attachment to the notion of Cypriot identity, replace them. (According to the best estimates, nearly half of northern Cyprus' population is made up of mainland settlers.) The recent economic crisis in Turkey also means that Turkish Cypriots cannot count on the mainland to bail them out anytime soon. In this context, the prospect of EU accession may appear increasingly attractive to many Turkish Cypriots, especially to the extent that their rights and interests are protected through membership in the EU. The Turkish Cypriots also have an incentive to make a deal before the Greek part of the island joins the EU, given that their bargaining position would be weaker after such an accession. Moreover, the inclusion of Turkish Cypriots in the EU would have the added benefits of making Turkish an official EU language, and perhaps help to lower the psychological barrier to Turkey's eventual accession.

Even though Greek Cypriots are slated to join the EU, they, too, have incentives to make a deal. First and foremost, a crisis over accession and Turkish annexation of the north would put a definitive end to longstanding Greek Cypriot dreams of a reunified Cyprus. In effect, by withholding sufficient incentives to their Turkish neighbors, they may be strengthening the hand of hardliners; whereas a more moderate Turkish Cypriot administration in the future might reverse course. Annexation would also end any hope of regaining through negotiations some of the territory lost in 1974. There are economic risks, as well. In contrast to the crisis-ridden north, the economy of the Republic of Cyprus is thriving, but a post-accession crisis with Turkey-especially if Ankara has given up its EU aspirations-would undoubtedly lead to increased military tensions that would, at a minimum, undermine investor confidence and hurt the vital tourism sector.
Finally, both Greece and Turkey would themselves benefit greatly from a deal on Cyprus. A settlement of the Cyprus problem would remove perhaps the greatest obstacle to their bilateral cooperation and restore the possibility that the two countries could not only peacefully coexist but actually become friends, as they were before tensions over Cyprus emerged in 1955, ending the two countries' rapprochement that had begun during the 1930s. A deal would greatly reduce the financial drain that northern Cyprus represents for Turkey and would allow both Greece and Turkey to reduce their military budgets (at present by far the highest per capita among NATO members). That, in turn, would facilitate Greece's economic integration into the euro zone and ease, at least in part, Turkey's current financial crisis. Finally, a Cyprus settlement would also remove a key barrier that stands between Turkey and the EU; it is far from the only barrier, but even if Turkey made other necessary changes it is hard to imagine it ever joining the Union so long as the Cyprus issue remains unresolved.

An Opportunity Foregone?

Despite these clear benefits to all, past history-and the deep mistrust that persists among the parties on Cyprus-suggests that the parties will dig in their heels not only right up until the eleventh hour, but beyond it. Turkey's inclination in the run-up to the EU's Cyprus decision will be to escalate the level of rhetoric in the hope of leading a nervous Washington to weigh in with EU members on Turkey's side. In recent years, Turkey has successfully employed such a strategy against friend and foe alike. In 1998, for example, when Turkey discovered that the Greek Cypriots were planning to import Russian-made S-300 long-range anti-aircraft missiles, it threatened to "take them out" with military force, and the Greek Cypriots-under American and European pressure-had to beat a humiliating retreat. Similarly, Ankara can derive satisfaction from its confrontational stance following the EU's Luxembourg decision sidelining it from the list of candidate countries; two years later, with an active U.S. diplomatic campaign in its favor, Ankara held a winning hand at the 1999 Helsinki Summit. More recently, Turkey's steadfastness helped it dodge a bullet in October 2000 when the U.S. House of Representatives, under pressure from a White House concerned about alienating Ankara, shelved a resolution that would have described the 1915 Armenian massacres as "genocide."

The debate over the EU's security and defense policy provides yet another good example: unsatisfied with the degree of involvement being offered to Turkey in the EU's emerging security and defense policy, Ankara blocked a NATO-EU deal at the April 1999 NATO summit in Washington. It held out for an offer of greater influence at Helsinki and Nice, and managed to extract further concessions from the EU in a proposed compromise struck at a June 2001 meeting in Istanbul. (While the Turkish Foreign Ministry was apparently satisfied with the EU's new and improved offer, the military and political leadership in Ankara has delayed agreement, and demanded still more.) With these recent examples to draw upon, no one should be surprised if Ankara were to conclude in the case of Cyprus that a strong stand will ultimately serve it well.

The post-September 11 war against terrorism may further encourage Turkey to dig in its heels. Because of its geographical location, size, military power, and role in the Middle East (particularly as a Muslim neighbor of Iraq and Iran), Turkey's geopolitical attributes trump those of Greece. Many Turks will thus conclude, as prominent Turkish columnist Sami Kohen recently put it, that "the U.S. will be loath to upset Ankara at a time when it urgently needs its help." Indeed, it was perhaps no coincidence that only days after Turkey pledged in November 2001 to send special forces to support the American campaign in Afghanistan, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and other Turkish officials warned that southern Cyprus' EU accession could lead to annexation of the north by Turkey.

Greece, too, has seen the benefits of staking out maximalist positions. As suggested above, in 1994 Greece forced the EU to reconsider its position on admitting a divided island by simply taking the future enlargement of the EU hostage. Greece's success puts the onus on Turkey to be more forthcoming, provided, of course, that Greek Cypriots do not make diplomatic errors that test the patience of those governments that really matter on this issue. As long as Turkey does not fulfill its part of the Helsinki bargain, it will remain outside the EU, an outcome that may suit many in Athens despite proclamations to the contrary. Indeed, all Athens has to do is keep the Greek Cypriots focused on the goal of completing the acquis.

If each party sticks to its maximalist position, all will pay a heavy price. Greece would hardly benefit from Turkey's disenchantment. An immediate casualty of escalating tensions would be the goodwill built up over the last two years. New tensions would stress Greece's domestic resources as calls for spending more on defense would proliferate, undermining the uncharacteristic and impressive fiscal restraint recently shown by Athens. If Ankara were to carry out its threat to respond to Cyprus' EU accession by annexing the island's north, the heightened tensions in the Aegean and on Cyprus could result in a conflict between the two sides-just as the 1996 Imia/Kardak incident nearly did. It is not clear how the rest of the EU would react in such circumstances. A failure of EU states to mobilize on Athens' side would deeply damage Greek-European relations. As became clear during the war over Kosovo, the Greek public is deeply skeptical of, if not outright hostile to, some Western policies. Demands on Greece to back NATO's pledges of support for U.S. military actions in Afghanistan and against Osama bin Laden's terrorist network have further strained relations between the Greek public and the West.

The costs to Turkey could be even greater. A crisis over Cyprus provoked by perceived Turkish intransigence is likely to delay, if not destroy, any chances Turkey has of joining the Union. In the near term, a veto-wielding Greek Cypriot-controlled Cyprus in the EU is hardly likely to accommodate Turkish interests. The longer-term cost for Turkey lies in Ankara's alienation or estrangement from the Western alliance. Turkey is not likely to join some other alliance system, nor will Turkish leaders actively court anti-American powers in their region or beyond. However, an inward-looking, increasingly nationalistic and autarkic Turkey could emerge, reversing the economic and political progress the country made during the 1980s and early 1990s. Having exposed the fragility of the Turkish economy, the economic crises of 2000 and 2001 have constrained Ankara's room for maneuver. An incorporation of northern Cyprus or any other precipitous action could undermine any confidence the international financial community may by then have regained. Estrangement carries enormous risks for an economy that is dependent on the West, and yet strong and large enough to think that it can make a go of it alone.

Turkey thus faces a terrible dilemma: a majority of the Turkish elite and public want Turkey to join the EU, an organization it fundamentally distrusts. The misgivings go well beyond Greece's presence in the EU. Discussions in Turkey over Cyprus' EU accession and the fate of the Turkish part are informed by a deep suspicion-not always unfounded-of the EU's real intentions and the authenticity of its invitation to Turkey to join. Rightly or wrongly, Ankara has interpreted current European efforts at constructing a security and defense policy as a deliberate effort to exclude Turkey. While the differences in religion and culture worry some Europeans, others are uneasy because of Turkey's large population, relative underdevelopment and thus its large potential claim on resources from the EU budget. For the EU, Turkish accession still seems remote primarily because of Turkish domestic problems, namely the authoritarian nature of the 1982 Constitution, the constraints on individual liberties and the still unresolved Kurdish question. In the absence of progress in these areas, Ankara will not earn Brussels' seal of approval. A divided Cyprus' joining the EU could also lead to the strengthening of those forces in Turkey hostile to its Western vocation.

Turkey's current economic and political difficulties could re-inforce these negative trends. The political system has been unable to generate new ideas to confront the problems facing the society, or to make way for new leaders willing to take them on. In the vacuum of confidence and competence that has been created, the military's influence has grown, overshadowing the civilians and blurring democratic lines of authority. The military feels pressure not only to defend its corporate interests but also to maintain national stability and ideological harmony.

The military does not worry for nothing. After years of stability the electorate-having historically opted for moderate center-right formations-is showing signs of desperation. In 1995, an anti-Western Islamist party (Welfare), won a plurality with 21 percent of the vote. In 1999, two nationalist parties-the current prime minister Bulent Ecevit's center-left Democratic Left Party and his deputy Devlet Baheli's far-right Nationalist Action Party, garnered 20 and 19 percent of the votes, respectively. These strange bedfellows then teamed up with Mesut Yilmaz's center-right Motherland Party to form the ruling coalition. The current instability of the Turkish electorate is further demonstrated by recent polls showing that under today's electoral system, the coalition's three constituent parties would fail to garner the requisite 10 percent of the vote to remain in parliament. This kind of uncertainty is not conducive to new thinking, least of all about Cyprus, and could easily activate the existing nationalist impulses of the current coalition government. Ecevit is on record as having said that the present division of Cyprus is the most desirable solution. His poor health and the possibility that his party may disintegrate should he have to leave office might also make the search for a solution more difficult. Baheli, as head of a future coalition led by his ultra-nationalist Nationalist Action Party, might use Cyprus as a means to establish his nationalist credentials.

Rightly or wrongly, the Turkish political-military elite will approach the Cyprus accession issue as one no less existential in nature than the Kurdish and Islamist problems of the past decade. There has been little debate on the merits of the Turkish position and tactics; support for Denktash has been solid irrespective of events in northern Cyprus. Dissent on Cyprus, as the Turkish columnist Ferai Tin points out, is often branded as treasonous by Denktash and the hardliners. Challenges to the Turkish military by opposition figures in northern Cyprus have also strengthened the military's determination not to concede. More importantly, the Cyprus issue will invariably be seen as part and parcel of a European attempt to deny Turkey what is rightfully its due.

Cyprus could thus emerge-and very soon-as the issue that decides Turkey's long-term future with Europe. Any concessions Turkish Cypriots might be required to make can galvanize not only the nationalistic elements in Turkey, but also those who have been opposed to European membership because of the domestic economic and political changes it would entail. Such a coalition could include established parties like the Nationalist Action Party, the nationalist Left, elements of the military worried about European demands for greater cultural autonomy for Kurds, and inward-looking business elites. Even Islamist groups that have become increasingly pro-European may switch sides if the global anti-terrorism campaign increasingly assumes a West-versus-Islam character, despite Washington's best efforts to prevent that from happening. For some, the temptation might be to replace Europe with a special security relationship with the United States, while maintaining the customs union with the EU.

America's Mandate

The stakes on Cyprus are higher than ever before. A crisis over the island's EU accession could dramatically raise regional tensions, undermine Turkey's difficult but steady evolution toward Europe, and create fissures among EU members. All this would leave the United States caught between its desire to promote a wider and more prosperous Europe and its inclination to stand by its Turkish friends.

In the face of these risks, trying to dissuade the EU from fulfilling its promise to accept Cyprus is tempting, but it is not a realistic option. Given the EU's commitments and interests, such an American intervention is unlikely to succeed-which EU member would or could agree to carry Washington's water on this issue?-and thus would lead only to needless tensions with Europe, Greece and Cyprus. An American attempt to block the Cyprus accession would also mean reversing the long-standing position of Democrats and Republicans that Cyprus should be eligible to join the EU; it would remove any remaining pressure on the Turkish side to accept a political settlement; and perhaps most importantly, it would lead to Greece's certain veto of EU enlargement to any of the other pending candidates. That would create a crisis within Europe, which is the last thing the United States needs or should care to be blamed for. In short, trying to pressure the EU into pulling back its offer to Cyprus would only add one crisis to another.

Instead, the United States needs to engage simultaneously along four main fronts. First, Washington should not take the parties' current positions as final, and instead should increase its efforts to achieve a settlement. Success remains unlikely, but new factors-further flight of Turkish Cypriots; unrest and political dissent in northern Cyprus; Denktash's departure; political change in Ankara; or new and more tempting offers from Greek Cypriots-could at least conceivably lead to an agreement. The framework of the European Union, with its enforceable regulations on human rights, property and individual security might make practical the sort of political arrangements that forty years ago could not be made to work.

Second, Washington needs to do all it can to deepen Greek-Turkish and Turkish-EU ties so that all sides see clearly the costs of a crisis and the advantages of avoiding one. Since the 1999 earthquakes, much has been done to transform the Greek-Turkish relationship: beyond the new economic and political agreements of the foreign ministries, bilateral trade is now up to over $1 billion per year; a Greek-Turkish Business Council meets regularly; the two counties have cooperated in delivering humanitarian aid to Kosovo, de-mining exercises, immigration and anti-drug efforts; and there is even talk of a joint bid to host the 2008 European Cup soccer tournament as a symbol of their new degree of friendship. Turkey's relationship with the EU-- despite the difficulties over the European security and defense policy and Cyprus-- has also had its positive side since Helsinki. This has included growing trade via the customs union, Turkey's adoption of a "national program" designed to meet EU criteria, and most recently, the passage in Turkey's parliament of legislation that could advance freedom of expression, make it harder to ban political parties and even pave the way for eventual broadcasting in the Kurdish language. Despite these positive developments, neither Greek-Turkish nor Turkish-EU relations have yet reached a critical level beyond which a rupture becomes impossible. The more that can be done to strengthen such ties, the greater the incentive to reach a compromise over Cyprus."

Third, the United States needs to discourage Turkey from annexing the northern part of the island or otherwise raising military tensions in case of Cyprus' accession. Washington should make clear to Ankara that it would be obliged to denounce such a step and to support a UN Security Council Resolution condemning it (as it did Northern Cyprus' "declaration of independence" in 1983), and that Congress may adopt further sanctions. The United States must also make clear to Ankara that despite its heightened importance in the post-September 11 environment, Brussels and Washington are not prepared to retreat from longstanding positions on EU enlargement. Instead, the Americans should tell their Turkish friends that a measured, restrained response to Cyprus' accession would be the best way to keep the door open for an eventual reconciliation between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, and for Turkey's own eventual EU accession. Washington could also help by reassuring Turkey that it would help, via bilateral channels with key EU states and through NATO, to ensure that Cyprus' accession to the EU in no way threatens Turkey's security interests in the region.

Finally, the United States should work with the EU, Greece and the Greek Cypriots to develop an accession strategy that holds the door open to Turkish Cypriots and thus provides incentives for political solution. In other words, if U.S. support for Cyprus' EU membership cannot and should not be made conditional on a political settlement on the island (which would in effect be giving the Turkish side a veto), it can and should be made conditional on addressing Turkish Cypriot security concerns in a meaningful way. To date, Turkish Cypriots still fear their Greek counterparts' intentions (often for good reason), especially given the Greek side's numeric and economic superiority.

Americans and Europeans must also pressure the Greek Cypriot leadership to start preparing its citizens for an eventual resolution of the problem. Much of the rhetoric on both sides focuses on past wrongs and the need to rectify them. If the island is to be reunited, however, both Greece and the Greek Cypriots have to be magnanimous in their hour of success. Statements made by Greek Cypriots and the EU need to emphasize the willingness to hold the door open to future reconciliation rather than denouncing the Turkish side for actions dating back forty years, as they routinely do. Instead of using their EU relationships to pursue major new arms procurements, the Greek Cypriots should use their enhanced security status within the EU to reduce arms on the island. Another potentially important gesture would be the lifting of the economic embargo on the north. Making the Turkish Cypriots poorer will not make them more willing to compromise, but only further fuel their mistrust.

Ultimately, if a solution cannot be reached in time for Cyprus' accession, the United States and the EU must fashion a reasonable temporary compromise to prevent either side from taking irrevocable decisions. The purpose of such a temporary compromise would be to gain time without losing ground. Even if the EU decides to extend an invitation to Cyprus at its December 2002 summit, actual accession would not take place for another two years, providing time to achieve a solution. Just as Greeks and Greek Cypriots must keep the door open to Turkish Cypriot accession as part of a unified island, Turkey and Turkish Cypriots must understand that their future lies with the West. If the United States can help the parties to take these hard decisions, the coming Cyprus crisis, which now seems so inevitable, might be averted after all.

Henri J. Barkey is Bernard and Bertha Cohen Professor of International Relations at Lehigh University. Philip H. Gordon is a senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution. The authors worked on Greece-Turkey-Cyprus issues at the State Department Policy Planning Staff and the National Security Council, respectively, from 1998-2000.

Essay Types: Essay